If you want to dig deeper into how to engage with systems, here are a couple of decent and in-depth entry points that I would recommend:
- The Fifth Discipline - The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization (Peter Senge)
- Systems Thinking, Systems Practice (Peter Checkland)
One of the fields that has done the best work in thinking about how to act with, and in complex systems is the domain of warfare. I consider “Warfighting” (http://www.clausewitz.com/readings/mcdp1.pdf) to be one of the best pieces of writing on the subject - it’s an incredibly succint and insightful piece, and worth reading, even if you disagree with the context of the ideas.
Another great read (and heavily informed by the domain of cybernetics) is the “Little Grey Book” that Paul Pangaro, Hugh Dubberly and others worked on in the early 00’s. (http://pangaro.com/littlegreybook.pdf). We’ve referred to it extensively over the years as we’ve thought about the design of our own business at Normative. Highly recommended.
Part of the challenge of learning about “systems thinking” is that it isn’t a single field, and you can’t improve your understanding of systems by adopting and practicing a single viewpoint or set of tools. The best way I can describe how I’ve come to think about systems work is that good systems thinking is a reflexive, learning mindset that recognizes that an answer will never be found, but that understanding always increases. I believe the act of modeling is more valuable than the model itself. This may not be a popular view, but it’s been very helpful for me.
My recommendation for going deeper into the world of systems thinking; read lots of different perspectives on systems “thinking” and let them start to fit together into a systems mindset that works for you. The best way to get good answers it to ask good questions, and I can’t think of a better application of this idea then the practice of thinking about systems.
And have fun, this is exciting stuff and well worth your time!